Original Article: OwlScoop.com
The hit movie “The Blind Side,” which detailed the beginnings of Pro Bowl offensive lineman Michael Oher’s career, was a fairly good insight into why the left tackle might be the most important position in football other than the quarterback.
Tasked with the job of protecting the quarterback’s back side, often facing the opposing team’s most dangerous pass rusher, the left tackle is easily the most valuable spot on the offensive line.
Unless your quarterback is left-handed.
The Temple Owls are one such team with a southpaw at quarterback in redshirt junior Chris Coyer, and thus that most important task falls to the right tackle–rising senior Martin Wallace, the only returning starter from a line that helped Temple rush for the seventh-most yards in the country last year.
“It’s huge–they need me to keep Coyer safe in every aspect,” Wallace told OwlScoop on Saturday when asked about his role on the line. “I enjoy the challenge, and any time in practice when I lose my man, it really hits me hard so it always keeps me grounded for more.”
“Marty’s obviously one of our top offensive linemen,” head coach Steve Addazio said. “He’s a very veteran player and critical to our offense and he has the edge in protection so he’s a big component.”
To make Wallace’s job even more difficult, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Coyer is a mobile quarterback, meaning he might not always be exactly where the line thinks he will be. He rushed for more yards (562) than he threw for (463) in his seven games last season.
“I have to have a ton of trust in him, and it helps that we’re good friends off the field. We spend a lot of time together,” Coyer said. “And I know that he’s working just as hard as I am, if not harder, on the field with his stuff, in the film room; I know he really works hard to be the best player that he can.”
On an offensive line that lost four seniors to graduation, Wallace gives Temple experience where they need it the most. He and fellow fifth-year senior Sean Boyle, who has missed the last two seasons with shoulder injuries, have to be the leaders in the offensive line unit.
“We have leaders on the team but there has to be a leader within each position that’ll really be able to propel those guys forward. Him and Sean do a great job,” Coyer said. “I know a lot of times right after practice they’re getting guys up in the film room, on off days I know they’re out here working some drills, subtle things, stuff like that.”
Though the line might be new, at least they finally have some consistency in the quarterback they’ll be protecting. Last year, the Owls started three quarterbacks–Mike Gerardi, Chester Stewart and Coyer–while giving all three first-team snaps in practice throughout the course of the season.
Coyer eventually won the job with a strong performance (300 total yards, three touchdown passes) against Ohio. Now, he’s the established starter as Temple prepares for its first season in the Big East since they were asked to leave following the 2004 campaign.
“Well, last year it was interesting because … we had a rotation, but each one of those guys had a certain personality with the o-line,” Wallace said. “Now this year it’s kind of a nice consistency with it. Because, like, I can look at him and I can know ‘OK, he’s gonna do his best job,’ and I’m not gonna go ‘OK, I hope he did his thing right.'”
A New York native, Wallace started his collegiate career in Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) at Northeastern. He was forced to leave the school after the 2009 season when it suddenly shut down the program, though NCAA regulations allowed him to become instantly eligible when he joined the Owls for the 2010 season.
“It reminded me a lot of my high school team … it was gritty, it was dirty, it was nasty, you really just wanted to get after it,” he said about why he chose to come to Temple. “There was no fluffy outside, nice little campus-y stuff. You really wanted to hit hard and go after it every single day.”
Now the 6-foot-6 Wallace will get a chance to play in a BCS conference just three seasons after playing in the lower level of Division I football. Temple accepted an offer to play in the Big East conference last month, becoming the eighth football-playing member this fall.
“I couldn’t see any of this coming from when I was a senior coming out of high school,” he said. “It’s been a long, windy road and I’ve been through quite an adventure while I’ve been doing it, too.”